Let it grow.
Let it grow. Getty Images

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader and Kentucky tortoise Mitch McConnell announced that he will be introducing a new bill that could legalize hemp (a non-psychoactive type of cannabis) as an agricultural product.

Hemp, which has been cultivated for thousands of years, is a resilient and nutrient-rich plant that contributes to the health of the soil and grows well in drought-prone climates. It can be used to make rope, clothes, paper, textiles, insulation, biofuels, paint, human food, animal feed, soap, body lotion, protein powder, hippie milk, and—most notably—woven bracelets popular among 1990s high school students and festival goers.

Despite its many practical applications, the plant has been illegal to grow in the U.S. without a permit since 1970 due to its relation to cannabis, or, as Mike Pence probably calls it while ritually flagellating himself for making eye contact with an unwed woman, "Satan's sativa." While some states have legalized industrial hemp production, according to the federal government and the Drug Enforcement Agency, it's still a controlled substance, although you'd have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole to get high on it.

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Even in states with legal recreational weed, hemp's legal status is often muddy. In Washington, the state approved a hemp production pilot program in 2016, and licensed the first industrial hemp farmers in 2017, but Inslee declined to include additional funding in his 2018 budget proposal, and fees collected from hemp farmers didn't offset the costs of running the program, so it ran out of money and is no longer processing applications. The legal limbo has prompted some hemp growers to move their operations next door to Oregon.

But this could change if McConnell's bill passes, as it would remove hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and permit its sale as an agricultural commodity. Called the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, the bill is co-sponsored by Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Wyden of Oregon. In addition to removing federal barriers to research and cultivation, it allows hemp researchers to apply for federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky's agriculture heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future," Sen. McConnell said in a press release, proving that even bad people can do decent things. On occasion.

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